The flirt of Toledo

Mario Vargas Llosa

Why am I covering my face with my right hand?  Not because I believe that by taking my photograph you are stealing my soul.  That’s what people who are ignorant believe, and I’m not ignorant.  I’m covering my face because I don’t like it that a stranger is taking my picture without asking my permission first.  Didn’t they teach you, back there where you come from, about good manners, respect, politeness…how to treat people?  In my village, we learn that, and everyone, no matter who, respects it; if you take liberties with someone here, you’re criticized and set straight by the community.  You people who come from somewhere else need to learn that about us: be respectful and thoughtful of others.

And something else.  I’m covering my face because I have a sweetheart and I don’t know if he would like it for a young man like you to come here and take my picture first thing you do.  What are you going to do with it?  Put it in your billfold and show it to all your friends, back there where you live?  What will you tell them?  That I was one of the conquests you made during your trip through the mountains?  That I fell in love with you and that I cried over you when you left?  Ha!  You’d like that.  But you’re wrong.  I don’t fall in love that easy,  fall for the first stranger who walks into town.  Besides, I told you already, I have a sweetheart.  So even if I liked you, I wouldn’t fall in love with you.  Besides, you’re not my type.  And with that camera in your hands, you even make me laugh a little.  You look like you’re playing, not working.  Or is that what you call work, going around snapping people without asking them first?  Oh, come on.  Don’t take me seriously, I’m just joking.

I have to go now.  My sweetheart is waiting for me, and he’s very jealous.  Though he trusts me.  He knows I would never give him any reason to be jealous.  We’re going to be married during our village fiesta, at the end of the year.  The priest comes that day, and there’s a procession and a mass and at night there are fireworks and a dance, with more than one band.  If you come back then, during our celebration, you’ll have a really good time.  The town looks so pretty with all the paper decorations in the streets, and people who come from all around with their music and songs and dances—all of them different.  And they bring their chicha with them [to get a little tipsy],* and that’s different in every community, too.  If you do come back then, maybe you can dance with me, and see what a good dancer I am.  You’ll have to ask my sweetheart first, of course.  Although, I just thought… maybe you aren’t a very good dancer, anyway.  That’s funny!

Well, I really have to go now.  Bye.  See you.

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